How Presidential Memoirs Work

True Candor

Betty Ford sums up her first lady experience with great honesty when she writes:

The point is I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time. I was no different once I became First Lady than I had been before. But, through an accident of history, I had become interesting to people ... Suddenly, at fifty-six, I was a public person.

Mrs. Ford's memoir spans the years of her life leading right up to the writing of her book. She discusses everything from her childhood to her first marriage (which ended at age 29) to her marriage with President Gerald Ford. Mrs. Ford also writes about her children, life as a first lady and her struggle with breast cancer. She's remarkably candid in her discussion, including this comment on how terrified she was to be interviewed by Barbara Walters:

... it was terrifying. I agreed to do the show with Barbara Walters on the understanding that I didn't want to talk about anything political ... The very first question she came out with was how I felt about the Supreme Court's ruling on abortion. I said I agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling, that it was time to bring abortion out of the backwoods and put it in the hospitals where it belonged.

Her candor didn't stop there -- she even addresses the issue of her addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. At the beginning of the final chapter, with grace and a touch of humor, Mrs. Ford talks about how, just when she thought she had finished writing, she realized she had one more chapter to write -- one more story to tell.